In a battle of "American Idol's" nicest guys ever, one artist handily wins and it's not Kris Allen, David Cook, and definitely not Chris "Sideshow Bob" Sligh. It's Elliott Yamin, the former pharmacy employee turned overnight "Idol" sensation, who made a habit of wowing judges back in 2006 with his soulful vocals and humble personality. Years removed from the Paula fan club and Randy dog pound, little seems to have changed for the artist. In an interview last week, Yamin discussed his sophomore album "Fight For Love," which was released earlier this month. The album is especially poignant for Yamin, because his beloved mom Claudette passed away during the recording process. Yamin discussed that, "Idol" (he still watches, and yes, he suspects Adam Lambert will win) and more. Delightfully, he had no problem addressing his much-publicized new haircut from the "Love" music video. Party in the back.
Elliott, the first logical question is what's up with your haircut in the "Fight For Love" video?
[Laughs] You tell me what's up with it, man. You got a problem with it or something? Huh?
Quite the opposite. You're bringing back the mullet. I love it.
I'm bringing the mullet back, man.
Was that haircut a conscious decision?
It wasn't too conscious . I just wanted to get my hair cut and that's how I got it cut and that was that.
And you still where that beard well...
Beards are constant...
You should try a mustache.
I haven't done just a mustache in a long time or just like the handlebars. I might have to pull it out soon.
You should. What was the vibe working on this new album? Your self-titled debut, which you released independently, was a massive hit.
The vibe was the same. We released it independently, [but] I was able to branch out and work with many different writers and producers -- some of the hottest ones in the game right now. I was able to do a lot more co-writing this time around. I was able to be a little more creative and kind of be more hands on and more involved in the vocal arrangements and production -- stuff like that. I got a chance to really expose my growth on this album.
What was your goal right off the bat for "Fight For Love?"
I really wanted to make a kind of a contemporary R&B, soulful album. I think we definitely hit the nail on the head there. I think that realistically there's probably a good three or four more radio-friendly singles that are worthy of becoming hits but we're just taking it one step at a time. It's been hard enough to get "Fight For Love" out there. The whole landscape of radio changed. I'm just trying to focus and over the hump. I have a slow build, but we're not running a race here.
You took two years to follow up your debut. I'd imagine there was some kind of "Oh my god, I've got to get this record out now" vibe with the first record. Was it comforting at all compared to the first time? Less pressure?
No, it's never really comforting. Not to me. There's always pressure, but I think there's good pressure and there's bad pressure. It's always good pressure for me -- positive pressure. I was still very green to the process on the first record so I didn't know what to expect. I just went with the flow. I worked really hard but just kind of went with it. This time around, we had already set our own standard -- our own bar so to speak -- with everything we did. Now we had expectations that were high.
Were you taken by surprise with first album? It was huge -- notably it was the highest independent debut ever from a new artist on the Billboard charts.
I was really taken by surprise. It just kind of caught fire. The whole thing just kind of blew up and it was awesome. The reason I took two years for this album to come out was because I lost my mom. I just kind of started writing the album then it happened and then I stepped away from music for awhile. I would've liked to get it out last year, but I'm not looking back on it.
And I'm sure your mom was in your head the whole time recording this record...
Yeah, she definitely played a role in some of the thought process and writing -- of course. That was a good thing. I was able to channel a lot of that emotion in the studio.
You did some songwriting on this album. Do you enjoy that aspect of the business?
I love it. You get to be creative and lose all your inhibitions in the studio, and there's no right or wrong way. It's all relative.
Do you hope to shed the "American Idol" association at this point or do you not mind it being sort of a calling card for you?
I'll always be synonymous with "American Idol" and that's OK with me. I think I'm a few more hits away from just becoming "Elliott the artist" -- not former "American Idol" Elliott Yamin.
The mullet's a good step.
It all comes back to the mullet, baby.
It really does. Just wanted to bring that full circle.
[Back to "Idol"] They've been so good to me -- so supportive and helped me out a lot. They're always showing clips of me and my mom on the show. I've been fortunate to be on show the past two seasons, and fortunate that they always keep me in their mind. I love those guys there.
How do you stay grounded. You sound like the same guy who America loved on the show?
I am. I still pinch myself, bro. I've got great friends; great people around me. Everybody has my best interests at heart, and they teach me and I learn. I just love what I do. It's the constant "pinch me" moment. I'm just always grateful and fortunate to do what I love to do every day. It's easy. How can you not stay grounded? Three years ago, I was kind of a knucklehead loser sitting on my sofa watching the show. Now the show afforded me this opportunity to give me a career.
I want to be around for a long time. I don't ever want to have to go back to Westbury Pharmacy even though I know I'd be OK and be able to make it and live. But, I wouldn't be happy. I never pursued a career in [music] before I tried out for "Idol." I don't think it'll ever get old. Sure, there are times when you have your moments when you sort of need to fight for your artistry, but there's no better gig in the world.